It’s 3:45am. We roll out of bed, slip on jeans. Contacts are gritty on tired eyes. Xavi sleeps with little knees tucked up under his chest, a roly-poly. I rustle his soft mop, whisper that it’s time to go, lift him into my arms and feel the fleecy warmth of sleeping babe.
Sweetpea hears us. “It’s today, Mommy!” she starts laughing excitedly. “I’m sooooo happy, Mommy!”
We’re driving down dark streets, onto empty highway, making fast time on clear roads. The kids are smiling in the back, Xavi exclaiming over spotlight moon, Sweetpea yelling about stars, the two of us grinning in the front seat, their joy like molecules, seeping into our noses and caressing our cheeks.
The lady behind the counter has lockjaw. “No other options?” asks my hubby. A huff. A few half-hearted strokes on the keyboard. “Nope. ‘Fraid not,” she grunts. “All right. Thanks for trying.” We talk about it, decide that today, the grumpy people, we’ll send them rainbows. No lockjaw for us, please.
Everyone talks in hushed morning tones, except two little ones who squeal like they’re in CandyLand. They whisk us along a special line. A moustachioed officer waits on the other side of the box with gold badges for the happy. Junior officers.
I have told anyone who asks that my Monday will be difficult. Ungodly wake-up. Puddle-jump across Lake Michigan. Four hours in Chicago. Two and a half hours in the atmosphere. Seven hours in Denver. Last flight to Medford and a midnight bedtime for my kiddos.
Chicago is playground heaven. Denver is sunshine heaven. Baby actually naps under a sunny window in view of the Rockies.
The afternoon passes gently, and after riding in the front car of the underground train back and forth for about an hour, we make our way to the gate. We’ve been en route with kids for 17 hours. It is five minutes until boarding time when Rob notices the gate destination has changed to Dallas/ Ft. Worth. I buzz over to the big screens to find out what might be going on. What I see makes me reach up and slap the monitor like it’s a vending machine. This can’t be. I’ve reached the limit of my energy, folks. I’m tired. I want to put my kids to bed at Grandma’s house. I am now loud among the hushed voices of the airline terminal, except no one would accuse me of inhabiting CandyLand.
Lockjaw Lady reincarnate, I march over to my hubby. ”Our flight has been cancelled. Don’t they know we have little kids? We’ve been waiting for this flight for SEVEN HOURS. Doesn’t that mean something? We could have been touring Denver today! We could have flown to Portland and driven to Medford! We could have driven to Oregon from home, poo-poo, caca, pee-pee [or something like that]!!!”
“Mommy! What’s happening? Why can’t we get on our plane?” I hear the troubled voice of Sweetpea as we bustle over to the Customer Service desk. I tell her I don’t know, that the plane just hasn’t arrived, and won’t be coming.
As we park our large entourage in front of the counter, loud sobbing erupts from behind a pillow. “We can’t see Grandma for Christmas?” weeps Sweetpea, and I wish I could gather every last insecure, immature word I have uttered and bury them right there, deep under the airport carpet.
“No, sweetie, no. We’ll see Grandma,” I pick her up, wrap her in my arms, change my tone of voice and become the adult again. “We’re going to have an adventure now! We’re going to stay in a hotel tonight, and we’ll see Grandma tomorrow. Don’t you worry about that.”
The crying subsides, the kids forget mama’s episode, they try to climb up onto the customer service counter and push strollers dangerously close to sleeping people. We will fly in the morning to San Francisco, then Eugene, then rent a car and drive to Medford because of freezing fog. (Yes, Sarah, didn’t the freezing fog know you had two kids? That you had been waiting SEVEN HOURS in Denver? Wish you could slap that freezing fog silly?)
We wait for a shuttle to the hotel, my kids once again bursting with excitement, and I smile down at my two little teachers. Yes, we have worked hard to keep them busy. Yes, they have screamed about sitting on my lap or not getting the window seat and whined about zucchini in airport burritoes…but they are immersed in the journey. They see that right now there is something wonderful, that they can be happy in this moment. They do not need to get to Medford to relax, to play, to begin to have fun. I remember the words of Richard Rohr, “Will you really be happier when you get to the other side of the traffic light?” My kids’ joy shouts the same thing.
It is not about the circumstances of our lives–will I ever meet the right person for me; will my adult children ever move to live near; will my spouse ever get it together and find a job he loves? Though we must never lose hope for change, or give up on Christmas in Medford, how we live in the now that is ours is how we will live in the next moment. If I am a lockjaw now, I will find another reason to be a lockjaw then. If I am grateful for the much that is given me in this moment, I will be grateful for the much that is given me in the next.
“We get to stay in a hotel, Mommy!” Sweetpea kicks her legs in the stroller, excitedly laughing as we wait. We climb into the Doubletree shuttle, take the last row of seats, and one baby tucks under each of my arms, wide-eyed and waiting excitedly for what comes next. I want to be wide-eyed and excited too. I am rich, perfectly content, in this shuttle, in a city far from home, on this wonderful adventure of life.